RADICAN’S TAKE – AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door PPV preview series: Kazuchika Okada vs. Bryan Danielson

Bryan Danielson reveals he suffered injury at Forbidden Door
Photo Credit: AEW


Note: This is the first installment in a multi-part preview of the AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door PPV that will take place on June 25 in Toronto. The show is available for purchase on Bleacher Report and traditional PPV. 


This is the epitome of what the relationship between NJPW and AEW can produce in terms of dream matches. Bryan Danielson and Kazuchika Okada are two of the best wrestlers in the world and they’ve never wrestled.

Danielson grew his reputation starting in 2002 with Ring of Honor where he would wrestle stellar matches that were taped for VHS and later DVD release. Danielson regularly put on classic matches with a wide variety of opponents in Ring of Honor wrestling a technical style, but it was when he adopted a heel persona during his time as Ring of Honor World Champion in the mid-2000s was where he really established his reputation as a brutal, hard-hitting technical wrestler before eventually heading to WWE.

Danielson eventually broke through in WWE despite being saddled with comedic gimmicks during his initial run in the company. He endeared himself to the fans with the yes movement and his momentum took him all the way to winning the WWE World Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 30.

WWE never saw Danielson as a top guy during his time there, but fan support forced the companies hand and his incredible journey to winning the the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania 30 is one of the best stories WWE told in the previous decade.

Danielson’s physical in-ring style eventually caught up to him and he was forced to retire in 2016. Danielson later admitted that he lied to WWE about his concussion issues which played a role in him being forced to retire.

Since returning to the ring, Danielson has once again proven to be one of the best wrestlers in the world and was in the main event mix right up until his departure from WWE in 2021. Danielson picked up right where he left off having a string of really good matches with a wide variety of opponents in AEW after his debut in September of 2021.

Danielson suffered a concussion in May of 2022 and was forced to miss the Forbidden Door PPV. After returning to AEW after taking time off for a concussion, Danielson didn’t take long to get back to doing what he’s done since coming into AEW. Danielson regularly wrestled high quality matches on TV and was inserted into title programs on a regular basis.

Danielson’s most recent singles match in AEW came against AEW World Champion MJF at Revolution on March 5. Danielson lost a brutal Iron Man match and he talked about the physical and mental toll that wrestling for 65 minutes at Revolution took on his mind and body on the Unconsciously Coupled podcast.

Danielson participated in angles with his stablemates the Blackpool Combat Club in recent months, but he did not participate in a match until Anarchy in the Arena last month at the Double or Nothing PPV when the B.C.C. took on The Elite. Danielson did not take a bump in any of the B.C.C. beatdown angles leading into Double or Nothing and he took less than a handful of bumps in the Anarchy in the Arena match at Double or Nothing.

Kazuchika Okada’s rise began in January of 2012 when he returned to NJPW from a forgettable excursion with Impact Wrestling nearly ten years after Danielson began to stake his claim as one of the best in the world.

Just one month after returning to NJPW, Okada beat NJPW’s top wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Hvt. Championship. There was a lengthy battle between Tanahashi and Okada to settle who was the ace of NJPW. The story was built around Okada being unable to beat Tanahashi with the IWGP Hvt. Championship on the line at Wrestle Kingdom. Okada lost to Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 7 and Wrestle Kingdom 9. At Wrestle Kingdom 10, Okada finally beat Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom to claim his spot as the ace of NJPW.

Since that time, Okada has had some ups and downs creatively when he is not booked in a main title program, but his mystique has grown as the years have gone by, as he inevitably almost always finds his way into the main event mix more often than not when NJPW begins building towards Wrestle Kingdom, their biggest PPV event held annually on Jan. 4.

Okada’s win over Tanahashi launched a 720 day title reign. He has won the prestigious annual NJPW G1 Climax Tournament four times and has main evented NJPW’s top PPV, Wrestle Kingdom, eight times.

Heading into Forbidden Door, Okada is not the IWGP World Hvt. Champion, but he has been wrestling with an edge lately inside the ring during multi-man tags. It appeared that perhaps Okada was being set up for a match with Jon Moxley at Forbidden Door, but after they had very little action at NJPW’s Dominion PPV on June 4 in a six man tag, Moxley got on the mic and introduced a video package featuring Danielson challenging Okada to a match.

In the video package, Danielson was shown training in the mountains surrounded by a sandy landscape. In the video package, Danielson said he is the Desert and there won’t be any rain in reference to Okada’s Rainmaker persona. Okada got on the mic after the video aired and said he can make it anywhere. The match was made official for Forbidden Door a short time later.

Last night on AEW Dynamite, Danielson and Okada came face-to-face to end the show and although the angle to set them up was quite convoluted, the crowd reaction to seeing the two best wrestlers in the world going face-to-face for the first time was incredible, but I can’t help but think with a more straightforward build to Okada coming out to face Danielson and with more time for the fans to soak in the crowd reaction that their staredown would have gotten an even bigger reaction to go off the air.

During the B.C.C. angle with Eddie Kingston that preceded Okada’s appearance on Dynamite last night. Danielson did take one bump when he accidentally hit Wheeler Yuta with the busaiku knee. The number of bumps Danielson takes during his match with Okada is going to be something to keep an eye on, as many of Okada’s signature sequences require his opponents to take some pretty big bumps.

AEW CEO Tony Khan hasn’t said anything about how the company is handling Danielson right now in terms of his in-ring activity, but last night was a good sign that he took a bump on TV. Even if Danielson is limited in what he can do in the ring in terms of taking bumps, Danielson and Okada can have a very physical match that will likely satisfy what fans would expect out of both men.

I expect this match to have an incredible atmosphere and I also expect both men to be brutally violent with one another in terms of their striking. Danielson holds an edge if the match moves towards technical wrestling, but Okada is no slouch on the mat and has shown he can hold his own in the ring against NJPW technical wizard Zack Sabre Jr., who is comparable to Danielson when it comes to their technical wrestling prowess.

When it comes down to it, Okada is a bigger star than Danielson. He has carried NJPW through good times and recently helped carry the company through a rough patch both creatively and with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a big hamper on their live event business which makes up a big part of their overall revenue.

Okada has headlined NJPW’s biggest events and come through with big performances on the biggest of stages time after time against a variety of opponents.

On the other hand, Danielson has been slotted as a lower top-tier wrestler for the most part during his career, but he has never been THE guy in terms of a company hitching their horses to him and riding him through good times and bad to drive revenue and stabilize the fan base. Much like Okada, Danielson delivers in the spotlight even though his character isn’t booked with the same reverence as Okada’s is.

Prediction: After a long and physical match that goes close to 30 minutes, Okada wins with multiple Rainmakers, but it’s clear that the match takes a toll on Okada as he heads into G1. There’s room to build to a rematch between the two at another major show later in the year here, so perhaps look for a small hook building to more between these two in the future.

Contact Sean at pwtorchsean@gmail.com. Follow him @SR_Torch

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